‘The Book of Mormon’ livens up Proctors crowd

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Denèe Benton (Nabalungi) and Cody Jamison Strand (Elder Cunningham) star in “The Book of Mormon.” (Courtesy of Joan Marcus)

Last week, Proctors Theater held a production of Current Production’s national tour of the critically acclaimed musical, “The Book of Mormon.”

“The Book of Mormon” musical was written and created by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. As the name would suggest, the show satirizes Mormonism, which was founded in upstate New York in the 1820s. The Book of Mormon (the religious text) is thought by Mormons to contain ancient texts written by Early Christians, who sailed to America shortly after the death of Jesus Christ.

The play centers around two young Mormon missionaries, Elder Price (David Larsen) and Elder Cunningham (Cody Jamison Strand), who are sent to Uganda to baptize the locals into their church.

Though the church has sealed their fate as doorbell-ringing, dogma-wielding Mormon stereotypes (as portrayed in the opening song, “Hello”), Price and Cunningham grapple with their faith as they encounter a world of widespread disease, poverty and local warlords.

As serious and bleak as it sounds, “The Book of Mormon” is thoroughly silly and a serious contender for the funniest piece of entertainment created in recent years.

Anyone who’s ever heard of the Comedy Central hit TV show “South Park” or the off-Broadway musical “Avenue Q” can guess that “The Book of Mormon” is similarly vulgar, irreverent, and hysterical.

Parker, Lopez, and Stone spare no rods poking fun at the aesthetics, structure, demographics, and core beliefs of Mormonism.

In fact, the basis for a lot of the Mormon-based material play can be found in the twelfth episode of South Park’s seventh season, “All About Mormons.”

While the subject of Mormonism is far from uncharted territory for Stone and Parker, the Africana setting of “The Book” provides fertile ground for material outside of “South Park.”

In a manner that is uncannily “South Park,” cartoonish gags and unbridled obscenity keep at bay most of the tension derived from the show’s darker subject matter.

The musical numbers are also an absolute joy, with songs ranging from the openly referential “Lion King” parody “Hasa diga Eebowai” to the operatic hard-rock “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream.”

Though this reviewer has seen the Original Broadway Production in a New York City matinee, the Proctors main hall easily outclassed the aforementioned venue.

The room itself is stunning and the acoustics made notably better use of the orchestra, conducted by David Truskinoff.

The crowd, too, was livelier. The production had to pause several times for the uproar of laughter to subside so that the next joke would not be missed. Not many shows can stake that claim.

“The Book of Mormon” is a must-see for anyone who can stand to be offended. It is so funny that even the Mormon Church itself couldn’t resist putting a few tongue-in-cheek advertisements in the playbill.

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